Who We Are

Chelsea District Library (CDL) is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to Engage, Inspire, and Equip through evolving services and resources. CDL currently serves 16,126 residents in the Chelsea library district—City of Chelsea, Lyndon and Sylvan Townships, and the portions of Lima and Dexter Townships within the Chelsea School District. CDL is an access point for the internet and information including: books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, e-books, streaming content, subscription databases, toys & tools in the CDL Garage, and the Ingenuity Engine (a creative Makerspace). As a community gathering place, Chelsea District Library strives to present timely, interesting, and high-quality programs and events to educate, entertain, and enrich the Chelsea community, schools, and stakeholders.

Library Board of Trustees | Staff

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Mission Statement / Strategic Plan

Chelsea District Library Strategic Plan 2024–28
View the Chelsea District Library Strategic Plan 2024–2028

Chelsea District Library Mission Statement

The mission of the Chelsea District Library is to engage, inspire and equip through evolving services and resources.

Chelsea District Library Vision Statement, 2020
The vision of the Chelsea District Library  is to be a vibrant hub bringing together and enriching all communities

Chelsea District Library Core Values

  • Equal, uncensored access
  • High quality resources
  • A safe, secure environment for all library visitors
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Fiscal integrity and accountability
  • Free exchange of ideas
  • Inclusion and respect
  • High ethical and professional standards
  • Superior customer service

Annual Report

Current Report

2022 CDL Annual Report

Previous Reports:
2021 Annual Report 
2017 Annual Report | Designed by: LM Designs
2016 Annual Report | Designed by: LM Designs
2015 Annual Report | Designed by: LM Designs



For a copy of any Budget document, please click below.

District Information

The Chelsea District Library serves all residents in the City of Chelsea, Lyndon and Sylvan Townships, residents in the portion of Dexter Township not in the Dexter Library district and residents in the portion of Lima Township also in the Chelsea School district. On October 5, 1999 voters adopted a Charter Millage for the Chelsea District Library. The library is now funded for service to 16,126 residents in the Chelsea library district—City of Chelsea, Lyndon and Sylvan Townships, and the portions of Lima and Dexter Townships within the Chelsea School District. Resources are available to run the library for the expanded district and to solve the problem of an appropriate facility for the district.

The map on this page gives a graphic representation of the library district. 

Chelsea District Library was formed in 1998 by the Village of Chelsea and Dexter, Lima, Lyndon, and Sylvan Townships when they entered into a district library agreement.

Under the terms of the agreement, these municipalities agreed not only that the public library should serve their residents but that the residents must approve the formation of the district library by adopting an operational millage that would be sufficient to pay the expenses of the library serving this population.

On October 5, 1999 the voters in the district served by the Chelsea District Library approved a charter millage for the district library. This successful millage election set in place the final building block for the district library – the resources to provide library service to all residents in this district.


1887 – 1903

A library in Chelsea was formed as early as 1877 when the State Law Act 164 was passed. A few enterprising ladies with support from a few well known men organized the Ladies Association of Chelsea – also known as the Chelsea Library Association (CLA). This was a nonprofit organization funded primarily through membership dues and donations. Members paid $1.00 for the year. CLA met and set up their library in the basement of the Congregational Church. Their books were stored in a building on Main Street owned by Dr. G. A. Robertson, husband of the library president.

2007-315-mckune-houseIn a few years membership increased to 70, and book acquisitions were at 500. The organization was self-sustaining through fundraising, group socials and community concerts. CLA grew quite steadily, setting up library meetings in other locations around town. They moved into the front parlor of the Chelsea Savings Bank when it opened in 1882, and into the Town Hall after 1883.

It was known that St. Mary's Church set up a library in one of their buildings in the late 1880s and 1890s. Other store merchants set up libraries including W.E. Snyder who owned the Steam Laundry. Prominent Chelsea businessmen were library officers at one time or another, including George Glazier, cashier of the Chelsea Savings Bank and Harmon Holmes, local dry goods merchant and CSB director.

At the turn of the century, higher political and popular support for publicly funded schools made private nonprofit libraries much less popular. The CLA and other groups eventually sold their books to the Chelsea High School at the end of 1903. From there, the only places that one could get books without obligation to buy were at stores like A. E. Winans Jewelry, which ran a circulating library of selected books and magazines.


In the midst of the Great Depression, Chelsea Child Study Club (which became the Woman's Club of Chelsea) was formed in April of 1931 with 20 members. Mrs. A. A. Palmer, chair of the library committee, supported the opening of a new library in the Palmer-Raftrey building at 110 East Middle Street . The library began on Feb. 28, 1932 with 22 books donated by members, and 100 books loaned by the State Library. Funds were scarce during depression years, but volunteers kept the library open by holding bake sales, card tournaments, puppet shows and benefit movies. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) took over mending the books after teaching several local people the techniques.

McKuneHouseIn 1934, the library was offered space in the Chelsea State Bank in the upstairs front room. The Village council gave $50 in support and the American Legion Post gave $15 and helped move the books and furniture to the new location. The library budget in the early days was from $100 to $200 per year.

In 1938 new funding became available for operating the library when a one-half mill village tax levy was passed. Taxes were raised to one mill in 1940. Chelsea Library's first paid librarian, Rena Walworth, was hired in 1941.   The library was on the move from one site to another for a few years. In 1940 the trustees rented the ground floor space in the old Kempf Bank building, now being used by Chelsea Print and Graphics.

In December 1944, the Chelsea Village Council purchased a three-story building on E. Middle Street and remodeled it for a Municipal Building by the start of 1946. Chelsea ‘s library reluctantly moved to the second floor the following year when Village Council put the proposal to the voters who decided that the library would have to move. Municipal building space on the second floor was an open space with large windows all across the front, and two back rooms for work and storage.

In the beginning, the Chelsea Library was administered by a library committee from the then Child Study Club from 1932 to 1938. When it became tax supported, trustees were appointed and later elected at the spring Chelsea Village election. “The Friends of the Chelsea Public Library” was formed in 1949. The library trustees' goal was to buy a permanent site within walking distance of Main Street . Trustees gradually set aside funds in bonds.

Catherine_McKuneIn 1956, former library trustee Mrs. Warren Daniels approached Mrs. Edward J. McKune about the idea of donating her large home, the McKune House hotel on South Main for use as a library. Mrs. McKune's family had owned the hotel since 1909. Edward's father Timothy McKune had bought the house from the Elisha Congdon family in 1870. Catherine McKune was impressed with the idea that many people would enjoy the house as a community library. Catherine died in June of 1958 and left her house to the Village of Chelsea for perpetual use as a library.

With $5,000 in bonds available, the library hired Ann Arbor architect Thomas Tanner. After joint meetings with the Village council, Friends of the Library and the Library Board, the former McKune Hotel became the focus of a great community project and was completely refurbished for library use. In the “Book of Donors,” there are names of 493 individuals, industries, businesses, clubs, church groups, memorial funds, labor unions, six townships and the Village of Chelsea who contributed money, materials, labor or discounts. A three-room apartment was installed for a caretaker on the second floor. Six small rooms on the third floor were readied for storage. Library Board member Jean Eaton supervised carrying out all the necessary interior upgrades.

In June of 1959 the Chelsea Library was renamed McKune Memorial Library. Resource collections grew and the Historical Room was added on the second floor. Bound Chelsea newspaper editions from the 1870s to current editions were donated by The Chelsea Standard owners Walter and Helen May Leonard for research purposes. In 1961 the library became a member of the new Washtenaw County Library Association, receiving privileges to use its services and borrow its books. A fiction room was added to the north side of the library with funds donated by Gertrude and Warren Daniels.

During the 1970s and 1980s the McKune Memorial Library encouraged the community to increase use of its programs and amenities. Chelsea Area Historical Society, chartered in 1974, was invited to hold their meetings on the second floor in the McKune Room. Katherine Staffan Wagner, niece to the late Catherine Staffan McKune, and Mrs. Jean L. Eaton, spent years cataloging and storing documents, photographs and mementos of early Chelsea . At the same time Harold Jones continued his personal project gathering brief genealogies of local families with data from gravestones and obituaries. This project evolved into today's “Family History Index.”mckunememoriallibrary_small

By mid-1980s the growing surrounding townships began using the library more frequently. Circulation expanded from 32,000 to 53,000 books a year. At the same time 65 separate maintenance items had been identified by the Ann Arbor architectural firm of Kowalewski & Associates. These included major problems with the heating and cooling system and ceilings. Space and structure restrictions of the McKune building could not support a substantial book collection. More computer technology and other services were needed.

Late 1990s – Present Day

Repairs and expansion plans from the 1990s to early 2000 were carried out when the library was upgraded from a Class II to Class III library requiring handicap-accessible features. By 1995, a replica of the original McKune House front entrance was reconstructed in place of the crumbling full-length stone porch.

On January 6, 1997 McKune Memorial Library became the Chelsea District Library after four years of deliberations and processing. Townships of Sylvan, Lima and Lyndon, and eventually portions of Dexter supported the library. New computers and Internet services were added to the facility thereafter. Programming continued to grow with “Homebound Services” deliveries to residents in Sylvan, Lima and Lyndon townships, and the start of a “Mystery Book Club.”

Once the district was official, funding to support it was the next goal.   A 20 year operating millage and a bond for a new facility were put on the ballot on October 5, 1999.   The millage passed but the bond did not.   After much more research and discussion with the community, it was put on the ballot again the next year and passed.

Beginnings of the expansion required Library staff, furnishings and collections to be moved to a building on Washington Street in January of 2000. Space consisting of 8,300 sq. ft. was leased from the Chelsea School District. This move gave the library more room, and brought it into compliance with the American Disabilities Act

Library history was made when Chelsea Village Council approved the transfer of ownership of the McKune House to the Chelsea District Library in January of 2002, clearing the way for new construction.

After considering four proposals, the architecture firm of Fanning-Howey Associates was selected to build an 18,000 sq. ft. structure with an 8,500 sq. ft. basement for future expansion. Cost was estimated at $8.2 million. Community residents and organizations were included in planning sessions to review library plans. Additional funding for renovation of the McKune house was successfully raised with a capital campaign project “Building community: A Better Future, A Better Library” in 2004. The campaign was headed by Bob and Marjorie Daniels and Laurel Gravelyn. Their $1.2 million goal was met.

Exterior_MainEntranceAfter a decade of planning, refurbishing, expansion in size and concept, a new Chelsea District Library was opened in November of 2006. Increased staff was provided, and 34 public computers – including computers for games and the Internet were added. The upgraded “Family History Index” was installed as a genealogy resource. Bound copies of Chelsea ‘s past newspapers continued to be available on microfilm. Learning and activity areas for children and teens, and many programs for people of all ages, rounded out the CDL as a community learning and social destination.

In 2008, the Library Journal announced that the Chelsea District Library was named “The Best Small Library in America.” This honor was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and included a $15,000 award.

The Chelsea District Library currently serves 16,126 residents in the Chelsea library district—City of Chelsea, Lyndon and Sylvan Townships, and the portions of Lima and Dexter Townships within the Chelsea School District.

Public Health & Safety Update 5/11/2020

Due to the ongoing complexities in responding to COVID-19, all library closure and health and safety updates have been moved to chelseadistrictlibrary.org/covid-19. Please feel free to contact the library with questions between 10am–2pm by phone at 734-475-8732 x.219 or by email at ref@chelseadistrictlibrary.org.

Safety & Security Update 5/25/18

To enhance the safety and security of our patrons, we have made a few more changes.

  • Security cameras have been installed on the second floor and on the main (only) entrance off the east parking lot.
  • Security cameras on the staff entrance and at each of the portico exit doors (north and south) have been updated.
  • Door access system has been updated.

Our librarian staff continue to walk both floors of the building every 15 minutes, proactively monitoring all areas and interacting with those who need reminding that they are in a public place and  need to act according to our policies.

Safety & Security Update 3/29/18

To enhance the safety and security of our patrons, we're making a few changes to how we use our 2nd floor computer areas. Changes will take place beginning Saturday, February 17 and will include:

  • All 2nd floor public computers (except teen and lab) will be relocated to the 3 tables nearest the north facing window and be designated for persons 18 years and older.
  • All Learning Lab computers, while available to anyone, will now be filtered.
  • The Learning Lab will NOT be designated as a “Quiet Zone” Monday through Friday during the hours of 3:30-6:30pm to accommodate increased computer use by youth and teens.
  • Plans are in place to install cameras for monitoring the adult computer area and our main (only) entrance off the east parking lot. We currently have cameras at our staff entrance and at each portico exit door (north and south).

At their March 20th meeting, the Board approved updates to Policy 435: Library Violations Enforcement Policy  as follows:

Section IV.B.1 Initial Violation – Added “If violations of this nature involve a minor, the minor’s parent will be notified as soon after the event occurs as possible, once police have been notified.”

Section V.  A. Meeting with Director – Changed language to put the onus on the patron who has been suspended to request a meeting with the director as follows: “All patrons whose privileges have been limited or suspended shall request a meeting with the Director or the Director’s designee…”

Section V.  B. Conditions Upon Reinstatement – Added “for violations involving potential safety and security as described in B.1 above, conditions will be placed on the violator’s use of the library, the specific nature of which will be at the director’s discretion. A written record will be kept of the conditions once imposed. The violator will be required to sign the record of conditions and will be given a copy.”

Value Statement- we have changed our Core Values statement to include “A safe, secure environment for all library visitors.”

Press Releases

The Library is a hub of knowledge, culture, and communication. Keep track of all our recent press releases listed below. Press releases are available in Adobe PDF for easy access.


11/21/16 Mobile Beacon Awards Digital Inclusion Grants
11/01/16 Veterans Day Concludes Strong Foundations, New Possibilities — Chelsea's Community-Wide Historic WWI Centennial Exhibition.
10/31/16 CDL Announces the Launch of New Biblioboard Online Local Photo Collection

10/27/16 CDL Joins with The City of Chelsea and the American Legion to Honor Local Veterans
09/06/16 Strategic Plan Survey

08/31/16 PES – Affordable College

08/22/16 Happiness is Having Your Own Library Card!

08/04/16  Chelsea District Library Marks 10 Years In Their New Building

08/01/2016 WWI Centennial Project Kicks off with Ribbon Cutting and Guided Tours
07/12/2016 Ribbon Cutting Planned for Saturday, July 30
06/08/2016 Chelsea District Library to Lend Wi-Fi Hotspots!

06/01/2016 Chelsea to Unveil “The World War I Centennial: Strong Foundations, New Possibilities” Historic Installation Exhibit
05/25/2016 Chelsea Named to Book Lover's List!
05/23/2016 All-star lineup scheduled for Chelsea District Library’s 8th Annual Comedy
05/18/2016 On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!

05/18/2016 Flex Your Reading Muscles with Summer Reading/Summer Learning 2016!
05/05/2016 Munch Bunch Program Feeds the Minds and Tummies of Chelsea Youth

04/05/2016 Library Receives Additional Grant for WWI Centennial Project
03/23/2016 Chelsea Education Foundation Grant Provides Books for Authors in Chelsea Program
03/07/2016 2016 Midwest Literary Walk Showcases Stellar Lineup
02/22/2016 Chelsea District Library's Authors in Chelsea Program to Showcase Three Notable Children's Authors and the “Power of Writing”
01/25/2016 Chelsea District Library to Host “Michigan in the Civil War” Exhibit, February 1- April 1

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